E3 2011 Eyes-On: XCOM - Preview

By Chris "Bearded Gamer" Arnone, June 8, 2011
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XCOM was a popular PC title nearly 20 years ago. It was a title that blended conspiracy, aliens, Men in Black, and some brutal difficulty into what is widely regarded as one of the best PC games ever made. If you're looking for an update to that classic gameplay, you're looking in the wrong place. If you're looking for a game that takes the core concepts of the original XCOM and adapts them with great modern visuals and new gameplay, you've come to the right place.

XCOM

The live demonstration for XCOM started in the office of Agent William Carter, leader for the XCOM division. They are charged with stopping the secret alien invasion of the United States. The year is 1962, a time when Cold War fear loomed large and social upheavals were giving birth to reforms such as the Civil Rights Movement and women's rights. The choice of decade and place was not accidental, as these themes very much play a part in the new XCOM.

In your lab, various scientist and team members you've recruited will be busying themselves with day to day tasks like researching weapons and training. When you're ready to go out on a mission, you select your squad members. Your options will have various specialities and specifications. Squad members earn experience in the field which can make them stronger and unlock new abilities for future missions. There are constantly a variety of side missions and plot-related missions available to choose from. After choosing a squad and a mission, the demonstration took to the field.

This mission takes place in a suburban area. This looks like the ideallic American Dream suburb, but something has gone terribly wrong. First you encounter numerous dead soldiers and one reading a file. He is not what he appears to be and promptly attacks you, revealing himself as an infiltrator-type alien. The aliens are all based on configurations of geometric shapes, not only creating a disturbingly non-human look, but creating a fantastic art style.

XCOM plays out mostly as a squad-based shooter not unlike the dominant gameplay mechanic of Mass Effect. You can order your squad members into positions and order them to use specific abilities. These were things like stunning enemies, drawing fire, and using special weapons. Effective management of your squad is absolutely key to success in this urban warzone.

XCOM

Various enemies and alien tech can be simply destroyed or captured on the battlefield. By capturing alien technology, you can quickly redeploy it for drammatic effect immediately, or you can take it back to headquarters so it can be used for researching more weapons, armor, or abilities. This research has a longer-lasting and overall better affect, but deploying in the field can save you in a pinch.

XCOM was on display by 2K last year. I attended the demo for it then and was thoroughly unimpressed. This XCOM looks like a completely different game, however, and really grabbed my attention. It looks to be a great entry into the FPS genre for those who favor the strong narratives of BioShock and the like.

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